Becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN) is a rewarding career path for those who want to make a direct impact on the healthcare system. LPNs play an essential role in the care of patients by providing basic medical care, administering medication, and assisting with treatments. This guide will cover everything you need to know about the education, certification, and job responsibilities required to become an LPN, as well as tips on how to succeed in this rewarding field.
As an LPN, you will have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and more. With an LPN license, you will have the ability to work with a diverse patient population with different health conditions, ages, and backgrounds. The versatility of an LPN allows you to work with different types of patients and in different settings. This career provides not only a sense of purpose but also a sense of accomplishment when you are able to make a positive impact on the lives of those in your care.
Whether you’re a recent high school graduate looking for a fulfilling career, or an experienced healthcare worker looking to take the next step, becoming an LPN offers a wealth of opportunities for growth and advancement. With the right education, certification, and experience, you can become an integral part of the healthcare system and make a real difference in the lives of patients.
What is an LPN?
An LPN is a registered nurse who has completed a program that provides training in fundamental nursing skills. Licensed practical nurses are often referred to as “licensed vocational nurses” or LVNs, although there is no requirement to use these terms. If you’re thinking about becoming an LPN, here’s what you need to know about the profession.
How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
Becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN) requires completing a combination of education and licensure requirements. Here are the specific steps you will need to take to become an LPN:
Education: The first step to becoming an LPN is completing an accredited program that provides training in fundamental nursing skills. The program can be either an associate degree, which takes two years to complete or a one-year certificate program. Some online programs also exist for those who live too far away from traditional campus locations.
Clinical hours: As part of your education, you will also need to complete a certain number of clinical hours to gain hands-on experience in a healthcare setting. These hours will vary depending on the program and state you are in.
Licensure exam: After completing your education and clinical hours, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) to become licensed as an LPN. Some states may also require passing a state-specific exam.
Background checks and drug tests: Some states require prospective students to complete criminal background checks and drug tests before entering into a program of study.
Cost and time commitment: The cost of becoming an LPN will vary depending on the program you choose and the state you are in. An associate degree program can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000, while a certificate program can cost around $5,000. In terms of time commitment, it usually takes around two years to complete an associate degree program and one year for a certificate program. Keep in mind that you will also need to budget for the cost of licensure exams and any additional fees associated with background checks and drug tests.
It’s important to note that each state has its own specific requirements for licensure, so it’s best to research the requirements for the state in which you plan to work.
What does an LPN do?
As an LPN, you will be responsible for providing basic medical care and administering nursing care to patients in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. Here are some specific examples of the types of tasks that an LPN may be responsible for:
Taking vital signs: This includes measuring and recording a patient’s blood pressure, temperature, pulse, and respiratory rate.
Administering medication: This includes giving medications to patients as prescribed by a physician or other healthcare professional and monitoring patients for side effects or adverse reactions.
Helping with treatments: This includes assisting with wound care, dressing changes, and administering injections.
Assisting doctors with examinations: This includes taking notes, holding equipment, and providing support during procedures.
Patient education: This includes providing information to patients and their families about their condition, treatment, and care.
In addition to these tasks, an LPN may also be responsible for maintaining patient records and communicating with other members of the healthcare team.
An LPN may also pursue additional certifications or specialties such as gerontology or pediatrics. Gerontology certification allows an LPN to work with older adults in long-term care facilities or home health settings, while Pediatrics certification allows an LPN to work with children in a hospital or clinic setting. These certifications require additional coursework and passing an exam.
Who Do LPNs Work Under the Supervision Of?
LPNs work under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) and other healthcare professionals, such as physicians and nurse practitioners. This means that LPNs take direction from RNs and other healthcare professionals in carrying out their duties, and report any concerns or issues to them.
While LPNs have different roles and responsibilities than RNs, they are both licensed to practice nursing and work together as a team to provide high-quality care to patients. RNs have a higher level of education and scope of practice and are responsible for overseeing the work of LPNs and other healthcare team members.
It’s important to note that the supervision and delegation of tasks will vary depending on the employer and the specific setting in which the LPN is working. In some settings, LPNs may have more autonomy and work independently, while in other settings they may work closely with RNs and other healthcare professionals.
Types of LPN Programs
There are two types of LPN programs. The first is an associate degree, which takes two years to complete and is offered at community colleges or technical/vocational schools. The second type is a one-year certificate program that takes place at nursing schools and offers classes in clinical settings. Some online programs also exist for those who live too far away from traditional campus locations.
All schools have different admission requirements and prerequisites, so it’s important to research the specific requirements for the program you’re interested in. After graduation, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) to become licensed. However, it’s important to note that some states also require LPNs to pass a state-specific exam in addition to the NCLEX-PN.
It’s important to keep in mind that while the education and training requirements may differ, the end goal is the same: to become a licensed practical nurse.
Alternate Pathways to Becoming an LPN
There are several alternative pathways to becoming an LPN, depending on your educational background, state of residence, and other factors. Some examples include:
If you’re a high school graduate with an accredited GED, you could take the NCLEX-PN test. To receive your license, you would need to pass this exam and be licensed by your state board of nursing.
Some states offer RN-to-LPN bridge programs for individuals who are already licensed as RNs in another state. These programs allow RNs to become licensed as LPNs through application and testing at the state board of nursing office.
Depending on the state, some individuals with a criminal history or disability issues may be eligible for certification through alternative programs. It’s important to reach out to your state board of nursing for more information on these options.
It’s important to note that the requirements and availability of alternate pathways to becoming an LPN vary by state, so it’s best to research the specific requirements for the state in which you plan to work.
- You must have completed an accredited program.
- You must submit your documentation to the state licensure office.
- Requirements vary by state, so check with your local department of health for more information!
Continuing education is crucial to the lifelong career of a licensed practical nurse. You’ll need to keep up with changing laws and regulations, as well as advances in technology and the medical field at large. That is why continuing education can be broken down into two categories: mandatory and voluntary.
The first type, mandatory continuing education, is required by law for LPNs who are licensed in all states except California (which has a different licensure process). Mandatory continuing education includes all of the following topics:
- Infection control
- Mental health nursing
Making the Most of Your Career
As an LPN, you will have the opportunity to make a difference in many people’s lives. You can work in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, mental health settings and more. The flexibility of your job is one of the biggest perks: LPNs are able to work during the day or night depending on where they’re employed. Your experience working with people who need assistance may lead you down another path and to becoming an RN (Registered Nurse).
The hours are generally flexible because most facilities need to be staffed 24 hours a day; therefore it’s important that their staff members are available at all times. The responsibilities include assessing patients’ needs based on their condition and communicating those needs to other medical professionals so they can provide treatment accordingly.
The Bottom Line
Becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN) is a rewarding and fulfilling career path for those who want to make a direct impact on the healthcare system. This guide has provided an overview of the steps required to become an LPN, including completing an accredited program, passing licensure exams, and fulfilling additional requirements such as background checks and drug tests.
The guide also discussed the job responsibilities of an LPN, including providing basic medical care, administering medication, and assisting with treatments. In addition, it provided information on alternate pathways to becoming an LPN, such as taking the NCLEX-PN test or going through an RN-to-LPN bridge program.
As a licensed practical nurse, you’ll have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings and with a diverse patient population, and to make a positive impact on the lives of those in your care. It’s important to note that the requirements and availability of alternate pathways to becoming an LPN vary by state, so it’s best to research the specific requirements for the state in which you plan to work.
In summary, becoming an LPN is a fulfilling career path that offers a wealth of opportunities for growth and advancement. With the right education, certification, and experience, you can become an integral part of the healthcare system and make a real difference in the lives of patients.